Tag Archives: Anzac Day

The Future’s Bright…?

28 Apr

When you are married to the military, events such as Anzac Day suddenly hold much more significance than they once did. When you become a mother, especially to a son, they become more poignant still.

Examining one of dad's medals

Examining one of Dad’s medals

I admit, before moving to Australia I knew little of Anzac Day and the horrors of Gallipoli, but  you cannot but feel moved at the thought of those thousands of young men, boys, who ran head on into a dawn bloodbath, some, no older than fourteen, many never to see their home again; most, never stood a chance.

Anzac Biscuits

Homemade Anzac Biscuits

You can read a little more of what Anzac Day commemorates here. It was the first year that I have not attended a dawn service or watched the parade in the city but with sleep a precious commodity right now, I decided against waking a sleeping a baby at 4am to venture out on a chilly Autumn morning.

This year I found myself not just sparing a thought for the dead and the atrocities of the past, but of the world we live in now, wondering if despite the nature of war having changed, whether we have learnt anything from the sacrifices of our ancestors. I found myself asking what sort of world I have brought a child into: where battles still rage, where people still need to flee for their lives, where people still need to escape the daily threat of bombings, beatings, rape, torture; where people still live in fear for their existence. And it is not just in war-torn Gaza or Afghanistan, it is not just in Syria or Iraq; it is everywhere to a greater or lesser extent. It is in a New York skyscraper, a London bus, a Pakistani school, an African village, a Parisian office, a Sydney cafe…

And for those who do flee and seek a better life for themselves and their own children, are they welcomed across borders and embraced by their fellow humans or are they challenged each step of the way, punished for the sheer misfortune of birthplace and geography, then locked away for ‘processing’ until bureaucracy catches up on its agenda?

My sleep-deprived and baby-addled brain cannot eloquently express my point but really it is nothing more than a mother looking at the world and wondering what my son will make of it and whether this new generation can bring about any changes and learn to live with a greater tolerance and compassion. When you hear of children younger than ten being groomed to continue certain fights in the name of religion, I fear, to use the word again, that in some cases, it is already too late.

Cheeky smiles

Cheeky smiles

I write this as I scratch a remnant of pear puree from my ear lobe, which a seven-month old has splattered with his spoon and I am reminded of his little round face, smeared with sweet potato, and the impish look he gave me just before scuttling off to explore new territory in an undiscovered corner of the room, and I look at him now, curled up asleep, oblivious to all that I have just mentioned, and the world does not seem such a dark place after all.

Times to smile about

Times to smile about

Sapphires and poppies

8 May

There are many things we’ve got used to after two and a half years in Australia and one of those is the fact a six or seven-hour drive is no longer considered that long or even unusual. When planning a trip away over the long Easter weekend, we decided to venture south to an area we had not yet visited together: the Sapphire Coast. A mere six plus hours in the car, still in the same state and only broken up a few more times than usual to let a pregnant woman stretch her legs and back!

Stopover in Kiama

Stopover in Kiama

The drive was actually worth it for the scenery alone for once you have hit the Southern Highlands, you are accompanied by rolling green hills, dramatic, sweeping coastline, sun-dappled forests and picturesque dairy farm land.

Rolling hills of the South Coast

Rolling hills of the South Coast

 

After a few wrong turns bouncing along dirt tracks, which would end abruptly at a river or some dense woodland, we got back to the road with the Sat Nav insisting we should, “U-turn when possible” and had our first night with James’ step uncle and his wife, who have a property near Wyndham.

It was lovely to visit them, after last seeing them both nearly three years a go at a party, where, to be honest, I met so many of James’ extended family, that I still struggle to remember who is related to who! Their home is set in several acres of land, which we walked around the following morning. It was distinctly cooler being that little bit further south and it was the first time we had to sit round an open fire in the evening.

The house near Wyndham

The house near Wyndham

Grahame, Andy and James

Grahame, Andy and James

The following days we stayed in a B&B near Tathra and explored the beaches and countryside around the Sapphire coast. It really is a stunning area, more remote than the South Coast closer to Sydney, fringed by long stretches of beach or smaller, bays, bordered by bush and forest. The water, unsurprisingly was a clear sapphire blue and in the middle of the day it was still warm enough to take a dip.

Tathra Beach

Tathra Beach

Bega Kiss Lagoon

Bega Kiss Lagoon

Forests along Sapphire Coast

Forests along Sapphire Coast

One of our favourite spots was Nelsons Beach, accessed by another dirt track with ocean one side and a beautiful lagoon on the other, which was perfect for swimming.

Nelsons Beach

Nelsons Beach

Walking along Nelsons Beach

Walking along Nelsons Beach

Lagoon at Nelsons Beach

Lagoon at Nelsons Beach

We treated ourselves to dinner at Mimosa Wines one night and seeing as we didn’t get to see it in daylight, stopped there again on the drive back up to Sydney. Artisan workshops, galleries and foodie joints seem to be springing up along the tourist drive, which winds along the coast and through national park.

Walks near Tathra

Walks near Tathra

Mimosa Wines

Mimosa Wines

Coffee with a view: Mimosa Wines

Coffee with a view: Mimosa Wines

Quaint shops of Central Tilba

Quaint shops of Central Tilba

It was definitely the breather we both needed and possibly our last chance for a long weekend away even before the baby comes along with James going away a few times before the due date.

It was a big holiday week in Australia that week, with Easter falling late in the year and coinciding with the same week of Anzac Day.

Anzac Day 2014

Anzac Day 2014

For the third year in a row, James got to march in an Anzac parade, this year in Sydney again, and a friend and I went to watch and support on what was a fairly wet and dreary start to the day. Luckily, by the time the rain really came down, James had finished his march and we were safely esconced in the officers’ pub of choice on Anzac Day, The Forbes.

Rain fails to dampen Anzac crowds

Rain fails to dampen Anzac crowds

Marie Bashir, Governor General NSW, applaudes marchers

Marie Bashir, Governor General NSW, applaudes marchers

James on parade

James on parade

Navy on parade: Anzac 2014

Navy on parade: Anzac 2014

Remembering the fallen

Remembering the fallen

After a few drinks there, James was clearly up for some stick, as we headed to the bar where some of his Marine friends were meeting up but ‘Jack’ was welcomed in with just a few derogatory comments!

Comrades!

Comrades!

The Anzac parade is always a spectacle seeing the hundreds of men and women marching together in uniform. It is certainly a moment to feel proud of those who serve and an event that equally shows them, the gratitude and support from the public. Every year since living in Sydney I have been moved at how many people, young and old, turn out for the parade, even in miserable weather. Perhaps a glimmer of the Anzac spirit being demonstrated in honour of those who fell.

Lest We Forget

26 Apr

As the dawn broke over the cliffs of Gallipoli ninety-eight years a go, it saw the dawning of a political and military disaster for the Allies in World War I.  It was the moment hundreds upon hundreds of young Australians and New Zealanders were sent, mostly unprepared, with instructions to secure the Turkish peninsular and sent ultimately, to their deaths. This day, April 25th, is now commemorated as ANZAC (Australian New Zealand Army Corps) Day and marked with dawn services around the world. It marks the occasion young men landed on the beaches of Gallipoli full of courage, fighting for their lives and fighting for each other in a battle they were never going to win. Young men who fought with bravery, persevered with determination and buried their dead with compassion: values which have come to be known as epitomising the ANZAC spirit.

As Ruth Pollard, who was present for the dawn service at the since-named Anzac Cove at Gallipoli, wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald, the headstones of those who lost their lives during the campaign also reflect the spirit and laid-back nature of the ANZACs. The headstone of ‘Trooper E.W. Lowndes of the 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade reads simply: “Well done Ted”.’

It was at a very poignant and moving dawn service at Bondi Beach, at the same moment that the ANZACs landed, that we were described the horrors that awaited those young men: ‘a maelstrom of bullets and blood’ and we were asked to turn and look out to the beach and try to imagine it without the shops, cafes and houses and instead the grizzly scenes which would have met the soldiers; a stark contrast to the calm and serenity of Bondi that morning. The guest speaker gave a powerful reminder of why we were there: to honour those who fell, those like many of the young men stood in the crowd amongst us. More than 11,000 lives were lost in that one failed campaign and the statistic, which resonated with many of us today: in the Australia of just 5 million people, 300,000 joined up to fight, the equivalent of 1.4 million young men doing so today.

Thousands of people gathered to attend the dawn service, an apparently growing trend, and made the occasion all the more special as there were so many children in the crowd as well – a point which I have noticed here is that the younger generations seem to mark the day and are encouraged to continue the tradition and commemoration more so than for Remembrance Day in the UK (this may have changed a little due to the recent war in Afghanistan and it may help that it is a public holiday in Australia.) An estimated 20,000 people paid their respects at the cenotaph in St,Martin’s Place, Sydney and over 3,000 stood silently at the North Bondi RSL. Current and former servicemen and women decorated with medals, stood with ordinary members of the public, some of whom were also wearing the military medals of their ancestors or carrying a photograph of loved ones who had been killed in action. Particularly poignant was the laying of wreaths by the parents of two young combat engineers who lost their lives in Afghanistan, the most recent having been killed in October last year, aged 24.

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Thousands at Bondi RSL ANZAC dawn service

Dawn over Bondi beach

The sun rising over Bondi was a more cheering sight after a 5am wake up and so it was on to breakfast and then into the city to watch the parade. My friend and neighbour, Katie and I watched proudly as all the Navy marched first. Both of our respective partners were parading and it was particularly touching to see how much applause there was and how many cheers erupted from the crowds, particularly as the veterans walked or were wheeled past.

Veterans ANZAC 2013

Paratroopers Sydney parade

ANZAC Day 2013: Sydney parade

HMAS Watson parade ANZAC Day 2013

SYdney parade ANZAC Day 2013

Marching band: ANZAC Day 2013

Support for the troops

ANZAC Day 2013: Sydney veteran

The sombre and ceremonial aspect of ANZAC Day is countered with a much more celebratory but none the less important part of the day as well. Following the parade, it is a chance for serving members (and the public) to enjoy a few beers. A chance for some to get as drunk as possible in one afternoon but generally, a chance to let the hair down, relax with colleagues and comrades and a moment to feel very proud of the uniform they wear.

ANZAC Day celebrations James said the whole experience of ANZAC Day, from the words spoken at the dawns service, to the obvious support from the crowds, gave him a feeling he wishes he could bottle to bring out during challenging times at work, those moments when motivation may be at a lower ebb.

James at Rose Bay

For those who use the public holiday as an opportunity for a lie-in and a booze in the sunshine, I would ask that although you don’t need to attend a dawn service, or even support the troops in a parade, at least spare a thought for the reason why you are having fun in the sun, for the men and women who have paid with their  lives to let you enjoy those beers, for that is the real reason behind ANZAC Day. A day on which many Australians and New Zealanders do reflect on the ultimate sacrifice so many made to protect their way of life, a day on which they do spare a thought for those past and present in the armed forces, a day on which they remember three words with a very significant meaning: Lest We Forget.

Sunset over Sydney

Naval Gazing

26 Apr

Yesterday I was shown Australia can do pomp and ceremony just as well as the English. ANZAC Day commemorates the anniversary of the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops in Gallipoli in 1915 – part of the Allied expedition in the First World War. Over 8,000 of their forces died and April 25 became the day to remember the sacrifice they made. Today it goes beyond just the anniversary; it is the day Australians and New Zealanders remember the contribution and sacrifice of all their servicemen and women in military operations and they do so with a great deal of pride and patriotism. The day is very similar to Remembrance Day but seems to bear much more relevance to young Australians, continuing to have meaning for their sense of national identity. It was plain to see as crowds of thousands braved the morning chill to wave flags and applaud current and former members of the armed forces and emergency services while bands from local communities, scout groups, schools and universities all joined in the parade. It was a real family event, with young and old turning out to honour the veterans and marching side by side.

James is away in Auckland, so at least is in a country where Anzac Day is recognised and got to experience the national celebration, including the traditional dawn service at 4.30 am. This is usually followed by the parade and breakfast washed down with plenty of beers to soften the blow. I was not up for the dawn service but did decide to head into the city for the Sydney Anzac parade to show my commitment as a Navy wife! I ended up going alone as nobody was too keen to get up before 8am on a national holiday, especially considering it suddenly turned cold for a day (top of 19 degrees – Autumn is definitely here and I am clearly acclimatising.) However, it stayed dry, sunny and crisp so, wearing a coat for the first time since we arrived, I found a place at the start of the marching route to watch the parade. After the most frail of the veterans were driven by in a convoy of taxis, men and women from ships, regiments and squadrons marched by to much clapping and flag-waving. It was quite a moving scene, particularly seeing young Australians marching with photographs of their grandparents and relatives who have died in action.

The other tradition, which has become as much a part of Anzac celebrations as the parade itself, is a game of Two-up in the pub. I met up with a group of friends for some drinks and we went over the road to their local pub to watch Two-up in action. None of us were feeling too flush to gamble away much money. When I left, Matt was $5 down, Nicky $5 up and I sadly left $5 down but decided to cut my losses before I gambled away all our money! Two-up (or should that be five-down) is a very simple game of heads and tails, played by as many people as want to participate. You place a bet by waving your money in the air and yelling whether you want heads or tails and hope someone will match you to bet the opposite.

Then the coin tossing begins. A lot of pressure on the spinner, as they’re known.

Everyone watches for how the coins land and once both land with the same side down, the winning better keeps the money so you end up double or nothing. There are always some happy punters with people sometimes winning hundreds of dollars.

This is definitely the rowdier side of Anzac Day for people getting steadily more drunk and willing to gamble increasing amounts of money. The other thing to note is that technically it is the only day of the year you can legally play the game . Glad I made the most of that one opportunity for the year.

On the subject of Anzac and therefore all things military, I thought, for those of you haven’t heard from James recently, a little update might be appreciated. Currently, they are alongside in Auckland and he is enjoying a slightly more relaxed pace after a very hectic few weeks in the run up to Easter. He was conscious of having to make a good impression and prove himself during this first job at sea and he has certainly worked hard to do that, particularly as he was largely responsible for a big anti-submarine warfare exercise off Western Australia. After weeks of planning, meetings and presentations, the exercise was a huge success and James in particular was singled out for playing a significant role in what was achieved. He said it was a big learning curve for him but a very rewarding experience. It seems he has impressed the bigwigs and managed to establish himself not ‘just another Pom joining the RAN for some sun.’

The other issues, for both of us, have been not knowing what comes next. For a few months now we’ve not known whether James was going to have to do another course after this trip, be sent back to sea and if so, to which ship or whether he’d be staying put or given a shore job. In between these options were several others as well, with other jobs and ships presenting themselves as possibilities. It can be stressful for both of us as you’re never sure whether you’ll be spending time together or whether you have to prepare yourself for months apart again. There was a lot of email to-ing and fro-ing, discussing what was going to be best career-wise, best from a home point of view and for us as a couple. There was also the other (but no less significant) issue of James’ broken knee cap and when that would get fixed! There was the concern that trying to get time off for a knee operation and be unseaworthy so soon after joining the RAN, would not go down well and maybe hinder him and his ambitions to be selected for command of a ship. But it seems James has impressed enough on this last job not to need to do a successive job at sea and finally, we know he has been given a shore posting at Watson, just up the road, which is fantastic news. It gives us both some stability and knowledge that he won’t be disappearing for six months to the Gulf.

Finally, on the subject of the sea, Sydney endured nearly 72 hours of continuous rain last week. When it rains here, it doesn’t do it by halves. Torrential downpours for nearly three days and nights and when it stops, the sun comes out as if nothing ever happened and it’s 25 degrees again. The storm meant the sea was pretty big over the weekend and walking along the coast, south from Bondi, there were some huge waves crashing on to the rocks.

They may be good for surfing – but not so much for Naval officers bobbing about on the ocean in pretty stormy conditions. Fortunately James doesn’t get sea sick but I think he was grateful for some time on dry land in New Zealand. Anzac celebrations were a certainly a good welcome ashore.

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